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Keller's struggles continue against White Sox

Rookie right-hander logs just 2 2/3 innings in series opener
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Brad Keller made a solid first impression as a starting pitcher. He pitched to a 2.14 ERA in his first six outings since moving to the rotation on May 30, including outings of seven scoreless on June 25 and eight one-run innings on July 1.

But now over his past two starts, Keller's effectiveness has ebbed. One outing after giving up four runs and five walks in 4 2/3 innings, Keller couldn't make his way out of the third inning in the Royals' 9-6 loss to the White Sox in the series opener on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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CHICAGO -- Brad Keller made a solid first impression as a starting pitcher. He pitched to a 2.14 ERA in his first six outings since moving to the rotation on May 30, including outings of seven scoreless on June 25 and eight one-run innings on July 1.

But now over his past two starts, Keller's effectiveness has ebbed. One outing after giving up four runs and five walks in 4 2/3 innings, Keller couldn't make his way out of the third inning in the Royals' 9-6 loss to the White Sox in the series opener on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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"I feel like I might be trying to do too much instead of just trusting it," Keller said of his past two outings. "That's what me and [pitching coach Cal Eldred] talked about, just go out there and trust it.

"It's worked before, so I'm trying to do too much, and I feel like that's what I've been doing, putting a bit more pressure on myself and trying to make pitches instead of just going out there and having some fun."

The loss is the Royals' 12th in their last 13 games, and their sixth in eight meetings this season against the White Sox.

Video: KC@CWS: Yost on Royals' pitching woes in 9-6 loss

Keller needed 70 pitches to navigate 2 2/3 frames, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks. In his last 7 1/3 innings, opponents have scored nine runs, leaving him with an unsightly 11.06 ERA in that small sample size.

"My mechanics were just off in the first inning," Keller said. "My typical cues to get through the ball, I wasn't hitting right, so I was leaking off to the left a little bit, just pulling the ball. Some balls were coming back over the middle of the plate, which you don't ever want to happen."

Heath Fillmyer, whom manager Ned Yost gave a "90 percent chance" of starting Sunday's finale before the opener, replaced Keller and provided some length to bridge the gap. Fillmyer went 2 1/3 innings and gave up one run.

Video: KC@CWS: Fillmyer K's Sanchez with bases full in 3rd

"When you look at Keller, you go 2 2/3 and you're at 70-something pitches," Yost said. "Fillmyer the same way got his pitch count up, but ended up getting us through the fifth inning into the sixth where we felt like we had it pretty much lined up if we could just hold it."

Offensively, White Sox starter James Shields shut down the Royals, giving up no earned runs and just two hits before the seventh inning. Shields didn't finish that seventh though, getting the first two outs and then succumbing to three straight hits -- including a two-run double by Jorge Bonifacio that made it 7-4.

The Royals fared better against Chicago's bullpen, however, cutting the deficit to 7-6 in the eighth. But an eighth-inning two-run homer by Omar Narvaez put the game out of reach.

"I think that our offense has picked up here in the last week," Yost said. "I'm feeling better about the at-bats that I'm seeing, the production that we're getting out there, and yeah, I felt really good about when we were down, 7-3.

"I'm like, 'Man if we could just find a way to just get one or two in,' and then next thing you know there we are, it's 7-6. So the offense is starting to really swing the bats better."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
After scoring two runs off Shields in the seventh, the Royals had the potential go-ahead run in scoring position with two out in the eighth following Yolmer Sanchez's error and Whit Merrifield's single that cut the deficit to 7-6. After knocking out Shields the previous inning, Bonifacio lined a ball hard -- 102 mph, according to Statcast™ -- to center field, but Charlie Tilson made the catch against the wall to end the threat.

Video: KC@CWS: Tilson makes clutch grab at wall to end frame

"I thought it was at least gonna get off the wall there, but the winds blowing in from right field kind of knocked a couple balls down," Yost said.

SOUND SMART
After ending a streak of 30 games scoring five runs or fewer on Tuesday against the Twins, the Royals have now scored more than five runs in two of their last three games. Kansas City scored five runs in the one outlier, averaging nearly seven runs per game over the three contests.

Video: KC@CWS: Merrifield plates Dozier with RBI hit in 8th

UP NEXT
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy (4-8, 4.89 ERA) gets the start in the middle game of the series against the White Sox at 1:10 p.m. CT on Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Duffy is coming off six scoreless innings and nine strikeouts in a no-decision against the Twins. In two starts vs. Chicago this season, Duffy has given up nine runs in 10 innings. Reynaldo Lopez (4-6, 3.77 ERA) will start for the White Sox.

Max Gelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

Kansas City Royals, Brad Keller